In an historic partnership, one of Australia’s largest landowners, Rallen Australia is uniting with Traditional Owners in opposition to fracking on its Tanumbirini cattle station after controversial gas company Tamboran Resources gave notice it intends to enter Tanumbirini today to begin preparatory activities for fracking, despite not having the pastoralists’ consent.
Traditional owners will meet on Tanumbirini and stand beside pastoralists on horses, monitoring a key access gate and scrutinising Tamboran’s activities, following tribunal orders which forced an access agreement on Rallen Australia earlier this month. Rallen has given no consent to Tamboran travelling through no go zones near its water infrastructure, and the gas company is now proposing construction of a new access track on Tanumbirini which Rallen has seen no approval for from the Minister for Environment.
High quality stills here. Backgrounder below.
Rallen Australia’s Director, Pierre Langenhoven, whose Tanumbirini property is subject to the fracking plans of Santos, Origin and Tamboran’s subsidiary Sweetpea Petroleum, says, “It’s unprecedented in the Northern Territory that a fracking company is trying to force access onto a cattle station without the consent of pastoralists.
“Working side by side with Traditional Owners, we will act to protect the sacred sites, crucial water resources and land we care for together.
“The government has given these fly by night companies free reign rather than properly regulating the industry to safeguard sacred sites and water as well as the cattle industry which contributes billions to the local economy.
“Tamboran Resources shows little concern for anything other than its own interests.
“These gas companies admit to needing billions of litres of water to operate and having no plan to safely dispose of the wastewater. Our biggest fear is that they will contaminate what can’t be replaced - fresh, clean, Territory water.
“Pastoralists have no choice but to divert time and resources to protect what’s special to all of us who live and work here - our water, our land and our cattle industry.”
Gudanji-Wambaya man Johnny Wilson, Chair of Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, which is supporting Traditional Owners on Wednesday to survey and protect sacred sites on Tanumbirini says, “We are so happy to have formed a strong partnership with pastoralists who share our wish to protect Country and water.
“Cattle is the backbone of our economy and provides food for us and all Territorians.
“We have never been consulted by Sweetpea and we are worried that this fracking will damage our sacred sites and pollute the water which flows through our country”.
Native title holder and Nurrdalinji Director Josephine John, living in Katherine says, “We are a strong community, but fracking is killing our country and threatening our culture which must survive for our children.
“We want the new Chief Minister to listen to our concerns. Water and land is everything to us and we have to keep it safe.”
What’s the story?
Rallen Australia and Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation are meeting on Tanumbirini to monitor Tamboran’s Sweetpea Petroleum plans to begin preparatory activities for fracking on the property. This comes as the spotlight falls on how the new NT Chief Minister and Federal Labor government will manage community controversy over their governments’ support for fracking in the basin.
Tanumbirini cattle station
Tanumbirini is a 5,000 square km cattle station located near Daly Waters, 600km southeast of Darwin. Tanumbirini’s owners Rallen Australia are one of Australia’s largest landowners. They are in a legal dispute with Sweetpea Petroleum, a subsidiary of Tamboran Resources. Tamboran has an exploration permit (EP 136) for exploratory fracking that covers parts of Tanumbirini and the neighbouring Beetaloo Station.
Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation
The Tanumbirini owners and local Traditional Owners, supported by Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, are united over concerns about fracking risks to land, water and sacred sites. Nurrdalinji has been working closely with Rallen in a bid to protect their country for future generations. Both are vocal about a consistent failure by fracking companies to properly consult about their plans.
Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation’s membership includes native title holders and Traditional Owners from across the Beetaloo and Barkly regions, including Tanumbirini. Nurrdalinji was formed to assert members’ rights to self-determine what happens on their country. Nurrdalinji is concerned that fracking will damage country, water, sacred sites and songlines. Nurrdalinji’s Board has spoken out in public hearings and made submissions to government inquiries and in response to fracking companies’ plans, including submitting comments on Sweetpea’s draft Environmental Management Plan for EP 136. Nurrdalinji has expressed concerns about the potential of Tamboran to damage sacred sites and destroy country, water and culture on Tanumbirini. Tamboran’s Sweetpea has failed to conduct stakeholder engagement with Nurrdalinji on any of its EMPs.
Following a failure to reach agreement about land access to Tanumbirini, the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) determined an access agreement for Tamboran and neighbouring Beetaloo Station on 4 May 2022. Tanumbirini and neighbouring Beetaloo Station are appealing, with a hearing scheduled for the NT Supreme Court on 20 June 2022.
This access agreement allows Tamboran to begin exploration works, and the company has given notice it intends to access Tanumbirini from Wednesday 25 May - the first company to do so since the commencement in January 2021 of new NT Petroleum Regulations which are designed to provide minimum protections to landowners, including pastoralists, in negotiating land access and compensation arrangements with petroleum companies. In this case, existing access may prove difficult, with the exploration area landlocked and access requiring Rallen’s consent and there being no consent to clear a new road.
Rallen has given no consent to Tamboran travelling through no go zones near its water infrastructure, and the gas company is now proposing construction of a new access track on Tanumbirini which Rallen has seen no approval for from the Minister for Environment.
Tamboran mired in controversy
Tamboran faces financial challenges. Its 100% owned subsidiary, Sweetpea Petroleum, was purchased by Tamboran Resources, but Sweetpea’s US investors maintain a 30% ownership of Tamboran through a shell company, Longview Petroleum LLC, which is registered in Delaware in the US, a known tax haven, via the notorious Corporation Trust Centre home to a reported 300,000 companies. Sweetpea was controversially granted $7.5 million in public money for exploration by the Morrison government in March 2022. Tamboran is under threat of being referred for contempt of the Federal Senate for refusing to appear before an Inquiry into Fracking in the Beetaloo Basin, with its critics pointing to its failure to be publicly accountable for this grant.
Tamboran’s Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for EP 136 for drilling and fracking has not yet been approved. It was withdrawn by the company in March 2022, following complaints about Tamboran’s failure to properly consult with impacted parties. A revised EMP is now open for public consultation until June 20.
Other companies fracking Tanumbirini
Origin and Santos also have exploration rights over Tanumbirini. Tamboran Resources is in a joint venture with Santos, which has already drilled two wells on the property. Rallen won a NT Supreme Court battle in January 2022 against Santos for its failure to inform Rallen of plans to drill additional wells on its property.